Legislative Actions and Information for the Week of May 6, 2019
|On The Floor
The second to last week of session started off with a filibuster of the Senate journal on both May 6 and May 7. However, the problem was not with the journal itself, which is the record of the Senate’s legislative activities. Instead, certain lawmakers used the time to raise their concerns about bills not moving through the legislative process. This delayed the Senate for several hours on both days.
While the week started out with some delays, numerous pieces of legislation moved through the legislative process this week. House Bill 499, dealing with transportation, moved closer to being approved by the Missouri General Assembly. Senator Nasheed’s Senate Bill 91 was incorporated into this bill. SB 91 states that courts may, rather than shall, double the fine for certain traffic offenses when committed in a travel safe zone designated by the Missouri Department of Transportation. Senator Nasheed believes this legislation will gives courts the discretion to decide the size of fines on a case-by-case basis, and hopefully avoid placing large financial burdens on individuals who may not be able to pay them.
The Missouri Senate also debated House Bill 192, which works to end debtors’ prisons in Missouri. Senator Nasheed offered several amendments to this bill. She first offered Senate Bill 459, which creates the offense of vehicle hijacking. Currently, there is no specific statute for carjacking, so culprits often receive other charges such as robbery and grand theft auto, which does not always account for the physically threatening aspect to the crime. Senator Nasheed believes this will help give law enforcement one more tool to go after those who commit carjacking.
“This legislation hits close to home,” said Sen. Nasheed. “St. Louis had over 300 carjackings in 2018. This legislation will allow our courts to better punish people who commit these a vicious crimes.”
Ultimately, the proposed amendment was ruled out of order. Later, Senator Nasheed offered another amendment to HB 192. This second amendment was Senate Bill 91, regarding traffic fines.
Another bill discussed, House Bill 399, regarded health care. Senator Nasheed offered her Senate Bill 92, which requires health benefit plans issued, amended, delivered or renewed in the state following August 28, 2019, to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility, to the legislation. Senator Nasheed believes it is incredibly important for these services be provided. “Thousands of couples go through issues involving infertility. I believe insurance policies should be able to help these families,” said Sen. Nasheed. “After all, they’re paying for that insurance already. If we are truly a pro-life state, we would pass this legislation and help these families bring a baby into this world.” After a long debate and HB 399 being laid over, Sen. Nasheed’s amendment was withdrawn.
Perhaps the most controversial legislation the Missouri Senate discussed this week was House Bill 3. This is an appropriations bill for higher education, providing funding for our state’s public colleges and universities. The main controversy involving HB 3 was about whether to allow colleges and universities to decide for themselves if they would charge students with an unlawful immigration status in-state or international tuition rates. This is a complex issue, especially for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, who have been in our country since they were children. The House budget included language prohibiting these students from receiving anything less than the costly international tuition rates and prohibited them from receiving scholarships from the state. The Senate version of HB 3 removed these prohibitions, supporting DACA students. Later, a compromise was reached in a conference committee to include the ban on scholarships, but leave out the international tuition requirement. The House rejected this deal and voted down HB 3. While the Senate attempted to keep their position, ultimately, both provisions were included in HB3. Senator Nasheed supported removing the language in an attempt to help DACA students trying to better themselves through higher education. She is extremely disappointed in the House for failing to come to a compromise.
Bills and Committees
Senate Bill 203 – This legislation deals with nuisance actions in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. This legislation was passed out of the House’s Rules Committee and is headed to the House floor for debate.
Senate Bill 224 – Senator Nasheed added language to this bill regarding the discovery process in a court case. This bill was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and is now before the House Rules – Administrative Oversight Committee.
This week, the Missouri General Assembly truly agreed to and finally passed the state’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. While the Legislature’s work is now complete, the governor must now sign off on the budget. It is important to remember that the governor has the ability to line item veto specific funding measures in the budget.
House Approves Tax Breaks for General Motors
The House of Representatives voted 92-51-6 on May 9 to approve $50 million in tax breaks to encourage General Motors to retain most of the existing jobs at its manufacturing plant in Wentzville, which currently employs about 3,500 people. Under the deal, GM would get $5 million in tax credits annually for up to 10 years. In exchange for the tax breaks, GM has pledged to retain about 1,800 of those jobs, with the long-term fate of the remaining positions is unclear. The GM incentives were added to Senate Bill 68, which had already cleared the Senate, and was expanded to include several other economic development initiatives, such as a new state job training program and creation of a special fund to provide upfront cash to companies agreeing to come to Missouri. SB 68 returns to the Senate, which must approve the House changes during the legislative session’s final days in order for the governor to sign it into law.
Plan to Revive Housing Credits Returns to Senate
The House of Representatives on May 9 voted 143-7 in favor of legislation that seeks to revive Missouri’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. The LIHTC program was one of the state’s most expensive tax credit programs, but has been dormant since late 2017, when the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted to shut down the program. Senate Bill 28 institutes several reforms to the program, including capping the amount of state tax credits issued under the program at 72.5 percent of the amount of federal housing credits granted to Missouri in a given year. The House version of the bill also would establish more definitive standards for awarding tax credits. Because of the House changes, SB 28 returns to the Senate for a final vote.